According the UN’s Comtrade database, the global market for imported goods totaled $15.6 trillion in 2015. This map shows where those goods came from and where they went, each dot representing $1 billion in value. Select a country to see the flow of goods in and out of that country.
The Flow of International Trade (full screen)
With the election of Donald Trump, international trade is suddenly at the top of the U.S. agenda. And it occurred to me, I actually have very little idea what the big picture of foreign trade looks like. And there are surprisingly few resources on the web. So, I gathered up the data via the U.N. Comtrade API and put it together in this map (see how this map was made).
What does this map tell us?
I can only speak for myself, but what jumps out most to me is how concentrated the flows are in just three countries: the U.S., China, and Germany. Nearly half of all goods traded around the world go through one of these three countries, either exported to or imported from.
Germany has the largest economy in the EU, but not by much. The GDP’s of the UK and France are both about 25% smaller than Germany. But it’s clear by looking at the map that Germany dominates EU trade. Its total exports are nearly on a par with the US, $1.3 trillion vs $1.5 trillion. Of the 28 EU member states, Germany is the #1 exporter to 17.
What strikes me about the United States is how balanced its trade is with Canada and Mexico. To hear some of the recent rhetoric about Mexico, you would think the trade is completely one-sided — goods flowing in, money flowing out. In reality, America’s imports and exports with Mexico are roughly equal ($240 billion and $294 billion). The same is true of Canada ($312 billion and $347 billion).
With total imports of $1.9 trillion and total exports of $2.1 trillion, China holds the largest share of foreign trade. I don’t know whether China’s trade policies are good or bad for the rest of the world. But visually, it sure does look like an octopus with its tentacles wrapped around the Earth.
- International trade flows from U.N. Comtrade. The categories of goods shown are derived from the Harmonized Coding System. For readability purposes, I reduced the 15 top level categories down to 9 categories by [somewhat arbitrarily] grouping similar items together.
- Built with Blueshift, my forthcoming map-building platform. See how this map was made.
My latest project, Elementus, aims to bring transparency to the cryptocurrency market. Check out our blog for some crypto-related data visualizations.
More about my background
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